Question: Has your Sales Organisation developed purpose-built sales collateral to assist prospects as they progress through the sales funnel from lead to prospect to customer – and is your existing sales collateral content effectively answering the questions ‘why change,’ ‘why change now’ and ‘why use us’?
According to our research at ThinkSales Global, only 33% of Sales Organisations use sales collateral that has been purpose-built to assist prospects as they progress through the sales funnel from lead to prospect to customer.
In addition, 31.53% of companies rate their confidence as Outstanding that their sales collateral content effectively answers the questions ‘why change,’ ‘why change now’ and ‘why use us’.
The ‘Content Strategy’ Problem
Despite the rise in popularity of content marketing, many B2B companies have been slow to adopt a comprehensive content strategy that supports the buying process across digital platforms and in sales engagements with customers.
The result is missed opportunities and browsers who are unimpressed by your website and underwhelmed by your sales presentations.
Align Your B2B Selling Insights With Customer Needs
All B2B buyers move through what’s often referred to as the ‘buyer’s journey’ or the sales funnel. At ThinkSales Global, we speak about four phases: The Trigger Event, Research, Consideration and Justification.
- Trigger Event: A buyer is triggered by an internal need or an external threat or opportunity
- Research: The buyer starts researching what solution they need and which suppliers can deliver that solution
- Consideration: Which supplier will provide the best total offering?
- Justification: Is there a compelling business case to justify spend?
Let’s unpack what a B2B buyer experiences during each phase of the buying cycle, as well as what you can do to guide them through the phase towards a successful deal.
1. Trigger Event: A catalyst for change
Most of your potential customers are focused on their internal roles. They tend to address priority issues as they arise and they pay attention to what’s happening in their particular industries.
The challenge is that they are not currently in the market to buy. Your particular solution isn’t on their radar, and the only way it will be is if something disturbs the status quo. These are called trigger events, and can be sparked for a number of reasons. For example, an external threat or opportunity could be new competitors expanding their services (threat) or conversely, an opportunity to expand into new markets presenting itself.
Internal needs that stimulate a purchase could include equipment breaking down or the expansion of the business.
There are two ways trigger events lead to the initiation of the buying journey:
- The customer recognises the event and begins their own research into potential solutions
- Your Sales Organisation shares new information with the client, bringing to light a compelling challenge or missed opportunity that causes them to express interest in your offering.
Because very few prospects are actively in the market to buy, it’s important that your Sales Organisation initiates the process by drawing attention to missed opportunities and persuasive challenges.
In B2B selling, the source of an external trigger-event will be either:
- Initiation of contact via email, phone or visit by a sales executive to a prospect, or
- Reaching out to an existing client with the intention to retain and extend the account.
In both of these instances, in order to create a trigger event that initiates your prospect’s buying journey, strategic Insights can play an important role in attracting and maintaining the attention of prospects or clients.
It’s therefore important that your sales team has access to a range of written and video content that unpacks these key insights.
These insights can include:
a) How to Minimise Risks & Maximise Opportunities
- This type of insight is typically related to the company operations and its competitive positioning
- They are pitched at decision-makers – senior leadership and/or management
- They focus on providing an opportunity or solving a problem that can yield a benefit over a short- to medium-term timeframe.
These types of insights typically seek to educate the prospect or customer and raise concerns or highlight different perspectives that the customer may not have considered.
The purpose is to present a compelling business advantage that:
- Piques the customer’s interest to engage further
- Encourages the exploration of an issue to the mutual benefit of the prospect and the Sales Organisation.
b) Meeting Current and Future Challenges
These challenges may concern:
- The prospect’s industry
- Changing regulations and/or legislation
- Changing markets
- New entrants and competitors
- New technologies that pose risk or provide advantage.
These types of insights would typically appeal to the senior executive (C-Suite) leadership who are responsible for steering the visions and results and/or transformation of their organisations over a typically longer time horizon (ie. a medium-term to long-term mandate).
They centre around their key concerns in terms of delivery on their mandates to their boards and / or shareholders.
They typically concern a longer timeframe, require a large commitment in budget and resources and involve some form of change management.
2. Research Phase: What solutions are available?
Once your customers recognise that there is a compelling need to act, the research phase begins. Their attention turns to:
- Defining the solution they are looking for
- What their decision criteria should include
- Who they need to involve.
Your sales executives must be actively engaged with their prospective customers throughout this critical phase of the buying journey, or they will lose the deal to a competitor who is more active in the market and sharing more relevant content that is meeting the prospect’s research needs.
The steps that the customer will follow include:
- Conducting general research to ascertain which solutions and features best suit their needs – and which suppliers can deliver what on those needs
- Product solutions and features
- Product applications in solving customer problems
- Early list of potential suppliers with track records
- Early price comparisons.
To give your sales executives the tools they need to guide their prospects through this phase, ensure your content ticks the following boxes:
a) Product Attributes
With so much focus on moving from product-centric features and benefits, to a customer-centric focus on client problems and needs, you’d be forgiven for thinking that product features should be de-emphasised – but that would be a mistake.
Customers are still interested in learning about what the product or solution does. To this end, demos and specs remain important, but in a customer-centric world, they cannot be the sole focus, and they need to be presented in such a way that the customer understands what they would look like within their specific operational environment.
b) Product Applications in solving customer problems
Where product features show what you do, product application shows how you do it. More specifically, how you solve customer problems.
In this channel, customers are interested in:
- How your service has been successfully deployed to solve challenges
- The time/effort/inputs involved in deploying your solution (i.e. ‘the hassle factor’)
- Support available to them.
3. Consideration Phase: Who can deliver the best solution?
Solution options have been chosen and shortlisted. Do not assume that all options under consideration are obvious competitors – there may be internal solutions on the shortlist, or a radical, left-field approach.
If your sales executives have guided their prospects or customers through the first two phases, they are now faced with the challenge of proving that your Sales Organisation is best-suited to delivering a solution that meets the customer’s industry-specific needs.
This requires content that addresses key two areas: That your business understands the customer’s world and operational conditions, and that you’ve taken your buyer’s needs into account.
a) Context Specific Expertise
Once a customer has established that your offering has the features to fulfil their need, their attention shifts to focus on whether your offering is best suited to their particular context.
- The most common context is Industry
- However, it could also be a particular business function (e.g. Finance, Human Resources, Marketing)
- It could even be business size: The needs of multi-national organisations are vastly different from those of small businesses for example.
Your prospect is evaluating whether your company’s offering and expertise are a natural fit for them. Highlight information that can help them see this, and include case studies that demonstrate how similar businesses benefited from your solution.
Top tip: Ensure regular training, coaching and in-field check-ins to ensure your sales executives know how to use the context-specific information, insights and case studies that they have at their disposal.
b) Buyer’s Checklists
Whether you’re dealing with procurement or traditional decision-makers, they will invariably be making purchasing decisions in which they are comparing a number of suppliers.
The purpose of a buyer’s checklist is to position decision-making criteria in your favour by highlighting your unique differentiators as key considerations in the overall selection of the right vendor.
A buyer’s checklist will provide decision-makers with a comprehensive list of factors they should take into consideration when making a decision. It enables you to add factors to that list that your company is uniquely positioned to deliver.
4. Justification Phase: Justifying spend
There are two key components to the justification stage: Validating and Confirming.
Validating is all about addressing an organisation’s concerns. These could be anything from pricing to the contractual terms of the deal. They may even have reservations about doing business with your organisation, or questions around the implementation of the solution.
Unless these concerns and reservations are addressed to the full satisfaction of all stakeholders involved, it’s unlikely the deal will proceed.
Coach your sales executives to always cover this section of the sale:
- Never assume there are no concerns – each sales executive must make sure they know what they are
- Address them – they may want to talk to your organisation’s existing customers or be taken through how the solution will be implemented, as well as the follow-on service available. Include this step in your formalised sales process and ensure your sales executives have access to the customers, case studies and testimonials that will assist them during this phase.
Confirming takes place once all of your key stakeholders are on board. The purchase is now referred to a higher authority within the customer organisation. Your sales executive will have progressed past external competitors, but there are now internal competitors to consider – the capital required to implement your solution means it is unavailable for alternative projects.
There remains a very real risk that the organisation will choose to allocate its scarce resources to a completely different initiative.
As a sales leader in your Sales Organisation, create a checklist for your sales executives to ensure they are covering each step in the confirmation process:
- Have they checked in with their champion to keep track of the deal progression with the customer’s organisation?
- Are they working closely with their stakeholders – do the stakeholders believe in this project, and has your organisation provided them with any additional information or resources they need to make their case internally?
- Is there a compelling business case to justify spend on your organisation’s solution?
- Have financial, cost of the problem, return on investment and total cost of ownership all been considered?
- Has customer ROI been validated through case studies?
Assess The Health Of Your Sales Organisation
Developing purpose-built sales collateral to assist prospects as they progress through the sales funnel and effectively using existing sales collateral to answer the questions ‘why change,’ ‘why change now’ and ‘why use us’ are two of 322 measures of a world-class Sales Organisation. How does your Sales Organisation stack up? Find out by taking the ThinkSales 5 Pillar Strategic Sales Assessment™.
This first-of-its-kind 360-degree gap analysis report enables your Sales Leadership team to assess its strengths and detect weaknesses and impediments to revenue growth across the five pillars of a high performing sales organisation:
- Competitive Strategy
- Customer Engagement
- Sales Talent
- Sales Management
- Sales Enablement